All in All, A Successful Trip

When all is said and done, President Obama will be able to put the G-20 summit — with protester violence, an awful cold, Nicolas Sarkozy theatrics and the awkward iPod offering to the queen — behind him.

It was a debut that contained many tests, and Obama succeeded in passing enough of them. He certainly didn't convince his European allies to go home and enact expensive stimulus packages, but he knew before he boarded the airplane that wasn't going to happen. While all eyes turn to the North Korean missile drama in the coming days, Obama will again be tested on many fronts at once, but he can take credit for cooling the heated rhetoric that was coming from China and Russia before the summit.

His meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao went smoothly, most notably because Mr. Hu didn't raise either the subject of a new currency or the fact that he recently stated publicly that China is increasingly concerned about whether purchasing U.S. debt remains a sound investment. His meeting with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev produced agreement on an arms control treaty. On the question of what made it into the final summit communique in terms of agreement, that will be spun differently in different countries and certainly Obama can trumpet a new day in international cooperation on new regulations that will protect the global economy. When asked if the steps taken by the G-20 would stop a deepening recession or a depression, Obama said they were “necessary” but that time would tell if they were sufficient.

Obama is right — only time will tell what will reverse the economy's slide, and those who expected the G-20 summit would be the equivalent of emergency surgery in which we could see immediate results will be disappointed indeed. Obama straddled trying to gain the trust of his international partners by accepting American culpability in the financial collapse with a warning that we are ushering in a new era in which the United States can no longer be in the driver's seat of the global economy and remain the top export market for other nations around the world. He was a grownup, able to be blunt.

That projection of leadership was largely what this trip was about — reassuring Americans, as well as our allies abroad, that Obama can hold his own on the world stage. That he did.


HOW DO YOU THINK OBAMA DID ON HIS FIRST TRIP OVERSEAS? Please join Ask A.B., my weekly video Q & A, by sending your questions and comments to askab@thehill.com. Thank you.

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